Author Archives: Britta Reque-Dragicevic
When was the last time you thought about what it is that you believe in? I’m not talking about religion (though relevant), but that essential belief that, at the end of the day, gets you through the doubt and fear inherent in creative life? That one thing that gives you the strength to pick yourself up after rejection, doubt and uncertainty have thrashed you to pieces and left you in a bloody heap. What do you believe in? Luck? Fate? Karma? God? Success? Hard work?
We don’t often think about it, but it matters; because the creative life isn’t for the faint of heart. And no matter how much others encourage, praise, award, buy, and respond to our work, at the end of the day, every artist is alone with the work, with his or herself, and with the decision to get up or stay down.
Tenacity is what is required; but tenacity built on sheer will power won’t last. It’s the thought that you refuse to stop believing in that will either keep you in or out of your power.
What is that thought?
If you’ve never thought about this, I encourage you to take some time for yourself and ponder it. It doesn’t matter if you are starting off on your creative journey or if you’ve been on it for a long time. Now is the time to pause and consider:
1. What you believe in will determine where you go. It’s so easy to externalize the beliefs for whether or not we achieve what we set out to do. The market, competition, circumstances, budgets, rejection, misalignment with representation — they may make the journey tougher, they may cause us to change course, but they can never prevent us from creating the work itself. If you believe in these external factors, you give others the power to determine your identity. You may easily see your dreams and your voice die at the hands of others.
2. Success isn’t strong enough to save your artistic life. Success tempts us to believe in it as our source of strength. If we succeeded once, we should again, right? This sounds comforting and logical, but it’s not necessarily accurate. Past performance cannot predict future performance. Why? Because the challenges change, the stakes grow, the qualities that helped us succeed before may not be the ones we need to succeed in the future. Relying on a belief in past success sets us up for giving up too easily when the future presents challenges that we need to grow into.
3. What you believe in will determine the quality of your experience. This comes down to our power to choose our perspective. If you believe in something greater than pleasing others or hinging your value on others’ opinions, then joy will be yours even in the midst of pain. You will find satisfaction in the process of creation no matter what the commercial result may be.
4. Your beliefs are the ONLY thing that can crush you. What we believe in is the only thing that has true power over us. While we may feel as if others’ beliefs determine our journey, that in itself is just another belief we continue to believe. We always live what we truly believe. That’s why some people can achieve high levels of success and appreciation by others and never be able to embrace it and feel it – their own beliefs about their success prevent them from enjoying it. It’s also why some people are incredibly happy continuing to create art even when they find little commercial success.
5. You can choose your beliefs. That’s the good news. When you examine what your beliefs are, you can choose to change them. You can let go of beliefs that no longer serve you and try on new ones. Left unexamined, you’ll go on believing whatever it is that you default to and it may or may not support you as an artist.
If we put so much effort into learning our craft, and become highly skilled, shouldn’t we put as much effort into making sure our own beliefs are the ones that will truly support us?
Ultimately, you need something to believe in. And that something is you. It may be you supported by a higher power, but it is you. Because at the end of the day, your faith in yourself is the only thing strong enough to pick you off that floor, wipe the blood away and start again.
You write about boldness, trust, and courage in creative work. What do these mean to you and where do you struggle?
I think the greatest struggle, and perhaps the one we all ultimately face, is having the courage and boldness to trust ourselves. We grow up taught that other people hold the authority to approve or disapprove of us and our creative expressions. Maybe this comes from the grading system in schools, I don’t know. But we quickly learn to create something, offer it to the appropriate “authority” and wait to see whether or not they validate it (and us). We hand over what should be our authority alone to say “yes, we have created what we intended, it is good and pure, and it matters because it is of us.” I grew up with this like everyone else and I am still climbing out of the system. I’ve spent years giving others a voice – individuals and corporations – and it has taken me a long time to put my own voice in my own creative work, and put it out there and let it stand for itself. So this is where I struggle most and what I find to ultimately be the most important. Trusting your own opinion more than anyone else’s. Not that you shouldn’t seek and heed feedback from trusted advisors; but ultimately, you have to give that approval to yourself and your work. And that is very challenging to do.
Talk a little bit about tenacity.
Tenacity is really just refusing to give up when it gets tough or you get slammed with self-doubt and fear. It’s a term of endurance and like any long-distance activity, it means there are going to be times when you stop and rest, but when you’re done resting you get up and continue. It’s really a matter of not giving yourself the option to not finishing what you started out to do. People need a motivation that means something to them in order to make that kind of commitment. As a writer, it’s the writing process and the relationships with characters that are my rewards. It’s knowing when I start out that the characters and story are going to change me as much as it will change them. So there is this wonderful, rich, fertile soil that stories rise up from and all this activity and effort and growth happening in the writer and characters underneath the soil, if you will. I love that. I love knowing that when you trust your characters it’s going to pay off. I have spent the last two years on a feature drama script, and the year prior to that on a novel – and I can unequivocally say that I am bolder, stronger, and more willing to step up to my dreams today because of having spent the last three years in the presence of amazingly tenacious and vulnerable characters. When you think about it, tenacity is really the core requirement for a protagonist and antagonist. Without that the conflict and tension disappears. The same is true for our lives.
What’s the difference between quitting and letting go?
Quitting comes from a place of defeat. Letting go comes from a place of power. I’m not playing on words. The result of either one is cessation. But the intention is entirely different. When you quit it’s because of fear or exhaustion – either way, you’re not coming from a place of empowerment. When you let go of something, it’s life-giving. It releases you from what has inhibited you, what has held you under water, and the result is that your spirit bounces back up to the surface and you breathe. And sometimes breathing is more important than anything else you could do. Letting go involves trust. Trust in the Universe, trust in yourself. It’s a result of growth. Either we outgrow our dreams and desires or they outgrow us; either way, letting go opens the doors to possibilities. And that’s where you want to be. Open, breathing, relaxed, trusting. That’s when the Universe can give you more than you ever imagined in far more aligned ways than you could orchestrate. Ultimately, when you let go, you do so with faith that no matter what happens, you’re going to be okay.
As writers, we grow by the process of pouring out story, rewriting, sifting feedback, making decisions, and listening to our gut instincts. And while we mature in our craft, we also mature in spirit. We’re a privileged bunch: we have access to these great mentors we call “Characters.” We spend enormous amounts of time in their lives, watching, listening, and seeing the consequences of their decisions. But have you ever reflected on what they’ve taught you as a human being?
If you’ve read my articles on characters, then you know I believe they exist in a realm of their own, they exert a realistic presence to the writer, one that we try to capture and convey to audiences. They are not figments of imagination or made up or invented. And they deserve respect. One, for their courage in making themselves utterly vulnerable to us as indecisive, insecure, sometimes annoyingly demanding writers; and two, because they often have very tough stories to carry and work through. If you ever dare think that characters are there just to serve you as a writer or are a means to facilitate your writing career, you better think twice. Because you’re missing out on a huge blessing.
Characters give back to us as much as we give to them. And if we pay attention, we can end up not just being better writers because of them, but better people, too.
So what have I learned from the characters who have come into my writing world?
- Be bold in going after what you want. Don’t let anyone talk you out of what you know in your heart is right for you.
- Move. Take action. When you run into an obstacle, find a way around or through it; whatever you do, keep moving toward your goal.
- Let yourself be vulnerable enough to trust someone implicitly.
- You’re stronger than you think you are. Always.
- The tough times in life aren’t without purpose.
- Healing happens when someone deeply listens and affirms that your pain matters. (Sometimes you have to be that person to yourself.)
- Giving up isn’t an option. Letting go sometimes is.
- Silence is the loudest form of communication.
- There is more grace out there for us than we know.
- We don’t have time to waste. Life is now.
What have you learned from your characters? Comment and let’s explore.
After climbing uphill for what seemed like forever (in reality it had only been a matter of months) I had achieved a milestone in my business. I was at the top of the mountain. Looking around, enjoying the view. Taking deep breaths. The climb had not been without struggle.
Like anything that requires us to grow out of our comfort zone, it had been a battle of spirit and mindset. A battle fought in the landscape of my mind. My faith. My ability to increase my risk tolerance. My ability to keep saying no to fear and keep saying yes to being bigger and achieving more than I ever had before. And here I was, hardly able to realize that, yes, indeed, I had achieved it.
Then a Town & Country magazine arrived in the mail and a title on the cover couldn’t have jumped out at me any louder than if the editor herself had shouted:
“What’s Next for You?”
I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I had been so busy climbing a steep incline that I hadn’t had breath nor mental space to consider just what might be over the other side of the mountain. And now, staring back at me in big bold print were the words my spirit needed to hear, needed permission to consider:
What’s Next for You?
It wasn’t burdensome or results-driven or pressing. It wasn’t a don’t-stop-here-because-there’s-more type of thing. No, it was freedom. It was permission to explore beyond the confines of what had been the previous Great Big Dream, and the delicious realization that not only could I stop climbing this current mountain, I could choose to climb any other mountain that I set my sight on.
Expansion. Possibility. Life. The pressure of one Great Big Dream now abated. The wide open potential of another – of anything I could imagine – out there, before me.
It was deeper than ecstatic joy. It was personal. Not what’s next for your business, what’s next for your family, what’s next for your profession, what’s next for what everyone else expects you to do at this stage of your career – no. What’s Next for YOU. That meant ME.
And that’s the part we often lose track of as artists.
Ourselves. Yes, even in our creative professions as writers, actors, musicians, artists, we get caught up in the identity of being an artist and lose track of ourselves.
We start to climb mountains because those are the mountains people who achieve success in our professions climb. We start to set safe goals for our creative work. SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). We mix up the results-and-profit-driven mandate of business with the process-discovery-say-something-that-means-something-in-this-damn-world calling of creative work. And our creative work starts to look not much different to us than any other profession. Yes, we may enjoy it more; yes, we find it fulfilling, but in the midst of it all… we are as at risk of “losing our souls” as any desk-bound, cubicle-dweller (forgive me, desk-bound, cubicle dwellers).
You sink too deeply into your identity as an artist and you start to go blind.
Blind to the massive power that lies within. Blind to the reality that the only thing that keeps us stuck is our inability to see that we can, at any moment, drop what we’re doing and change. That the confines we create around the body of our work, our careers, the expectations people have of us – are self-created and self-sustained.
We start to lose sight of our potential.
Is it boredom? No. It’s something more than that. It’s the false perception that once you declare yourself as an artist, and you’re good at it, you’re stuck with being that for the rest of your time here. It’s the false assumption that we should be stable, safe (even if “safe” means you’re the artist known for pushing the envelope), that once you reach a certain age or a certain level of success, you close the doors to what you could have been.
We do make choices, yes; saying yes to one path, means saying no to others.
Or does it?
“What’s Next for You?” is a powerful question. Powerful because it reminds us that we’re not limited. We’re not stuck. It may be humbling to find yourself back at the “who do I want to be when I grow up” question, but it is a necessary question. We need to keep asking it.
Change may not be the easy route, but it may be the necessary one to keep our souls aligned with who we really are.
And blessing the world with the gift we have to share. That gift is ourselves.
What’s Next for You is all about alignment. Being in the energies that light you up. Realizing that you are not replaceable. Sift out those things that anyone else could be doing and focus on the things that ONLY YOU can bring into this world. That’s where you find the answer to What’s Next for You.
Do you ever stop and wonder why bringing forth a work of art involves so much struggle?
We lament that being an artist is hard. It demands a lot from us. More than we think we can give. More than we believe we are capable of. Where does this push/pull/call/drive to produce art come from? There’s something more, something bigger than us, isn’t there? It seems to be working its way through us. We think we are the artist, when in fact we seem to be (or least I do most of the time) a mere instrument. Like the right paintbrush selected for a particular type of brushstroke.
This Something gives us the ideas, gives us an inclination toward our particular form of art, gives us a sense of satisfaction and achievement when we do it.
That same Something also uses this calling to scare the hell out of us. Frustrate us. Challenge us. Open us.
It would seem there is a delicate balance between this Something and us. After all, we can so easily say no to it. It can’t force us to do anything. Many of us are very good at denying it. We squash those early creative instincts or minimize them, subjugating them to “real work.”
In the end, we choose to respond to this Something or not.
Now, bear with me, because I’m going to dive a bit deeper here. I’m going to propose that while I’ve referred to this “Something” as external to us, the reality is that this Something IS us. We are the Universe or Life Force or God or whatever name you want to call it. We choose to extend ourselves into human form to experience lifetimes on this planet we’ve created. We choose the lives we will live before we take on this form. If we are fighting this calling to “be an artist” or the “work” – we are fighting a part of ourselves. The part of ourselves that has no qualms creating stars out of dust. The part of ourselves that never doubts its abundant, ever-welling flow of expansion, always pushing into new forms, seeking full expression.
We call it art. What it really is is creation. Bringing forth something out of another realm. Here on earth, if it’s useful to our everyday existence we deem it consumer goods. If it’s not useful for practical purposes, we call it art. We’ve made this distinction ourselves. A distinction we never would have made from the Spirit World. Back there, we didn’t separate beauty from purpose. We made this world breathtakingly beautiful and every part of it flows in perfect synergy. With precise purpose.
So dividing art from what has purpose only serves to devalue the place art is meant to have in our lives. All of our lives, in every facet of life. A natural expression of ourselves.
We wrestle with art because it is a part of ourselves that we aren’t fully connected to when we’re in “earth form.” It’s something we intuitively know, but can’t always pinpoint. From a spiritual standpoint, our creative calling interacts and challenges us to remember – not discover – who we are.
Your art has a purpose. That calling that won’t let you go – a reminder from the rest of your Being of who you are – of your power, of your voice, of your delight in being pure Energy that cannot help but expand into every void.
Wrestling? We need it. We need to be reminded of our purest essence. Of that spark of Energy that won’t let us settle for less than being who we truly are.